POCATELLO — With two minutes left in Thursday’s 42-0 blowout over Soda Springs at Holt Arena, North Fremont coach Ben Lenz put in his junior varsity squad.
Some players’ pads seemed bigger than the players themselves. Other players looked totally outmatched against a Soda Spring’s squad making its second playoff berth in two years.
It didn’t matter. Let ‘em play.
Ashton — a town with a little over 1,000 residents, according to general consensus data — is a football town. It hasn’t won a state title since 1989, sure, but that didn’t stop the North Fremont loyal from traveling 104 miles south Thursday to see their JV team close out Thursday’s 2A opening round playoff bout after the varsity starters beat down a District 5 opponent with five rushing touchdowns (three from quarterback Garrett Hawkes alone).
“The body of work, we’re pleased with the season, but these kids really have set their sights on something bigger,” Lenz said. “Our staff has been together for 20 years and coach (Shannon Hill) were on that state team back in ‘89, so we’ve grown up with North Fremont football and we know all the history behind it.
“The next one has been kind of our obstacle that we haven’t been able to overcome the past few years,” Lenz added.
The 2018 Huskies — with some their coaching staff made up of players on that state title team 29 years ago — are embarking into uncharted territory. They’re aiming to do something no other North Fremont team has done since that 1989 team: win a state title.
It’s not a ridiculous idea, really.
Sure, the Huskies haven’t gotten out of the quarterfinal round since that state title team. North Fremont would have to play 2A state title favorites Declo, West Side and Grangeville.
But this is a team that has 11 returning starters from a year ago. The Huskies have outscored opponents convincingly, 394-68.
This is a team that has yet to give up more than 16 points in any game en route to a 9-0 record — shutting out a team for the third time this season all while scoring 42 points in three quarters Thursday.
With a committee backfield of guys like Hawkes, Riggen Cordingley, Blake Oberhansley, Briceton Fisher and Chris Hansen, North Fremont ran over Soda Springs (and most opponents) early and often. Nine different players received recorded a rush versus the Cardinals.
“I think at North Fremont, we focus on grinding, ya know,” said Bridger Lenz, who is Ben’s nephew. “It’s four yards a pop, and that’s O.K. as long as we are getting all the blocks and safeties and corners make plays. That’s all we need.”
Both Lenzes preached a “one game, one practice” cliche, mantra after Thursday’s win. In the 2A state playoffs’ new RPI system, the Huskies will play a lower seed next week (the Huskies are Idaho’s No. 3 ranked 2A team in RPI).
North Fremont isn’t trying to get ahead of itself, both Lenzes said.
But there’s no denying the potential that’s there.
Ashton, the “football town” could — could — become Ashton, the “championship town.”
“We just take it one play at a time, one practice at a time and we play for each other as a team. That’s what will take us far: family,” Bridger said. “Absolutely, you think about (the season North Fremont is having), but you have to stay humble and take it one practice at a time no matter who we’re playing, who’s name is on the jersey. We just gotta play our game.”